Rishi Sunak to announce £500 million mental health support package

21 November 2020, 22:50 | Updated: 22 November 2020, 00:59

Rishi Sunak will announce a £500 million package to support mental health services
Rishi Sunak will announce a £500 million package to support mental health services. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce a £500 million package to support mental health services as part of measures to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

The Treasury said he will pledge the new funding in his spending review on Wednesday, when he will also deliver his long-term plan for infrastructure investment.

The majority of the spending is planned to go on specialist services for young people, including in schools, and support for NHS workers.

But Mr Sunak is also expected to make a vow for rapid progress to tackle the backlog of adult mental health referrals.

The Government estimates that mental ill health costs the economy up to £35 billion per year, and hopes the package will address the extra demand for services from the pandemic.

Mr Sunak said: "The pandemic has had a major impact on mental health because of increased isolation and uncertainty.

"So it is vital we do everything we can to support our mental health services and ensure help is there for people.

"This funding will make sure those who need help get the right support as quickly as possible so they don't have to suffer in silence."

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Mr Sunak's spending review is long-awaited, but it could also spark industrial action if he confirms the Government will impose a pay cap on millions of public sector workers.

Unions reacted angrily to reports the Chancellor would announce a pay limit at the spending review, though frontline NHS doctors and nurses are expected to be exempt.

Labour shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds urged Mr Sunak on Saturday to use his spending review to prevent a return to the conditions that allowed the UK to be "so badly hit by the pandemic".

She said the Chancellor "must lay the foundations for that recovery" in his set-piece financial update on Wednesday to prevent protective equipment stocks dwindling, local services returning to being "on their knees", and families being left with little savings and "struggling with the cost of living".

"And that must include working together to build a better, more secure future for our country, so that we do not go back the fragility and instability of the way things were," she told the Co-operative Party's local government conference.

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Mr Sunak will also unveil the much-delayed National Infrastructure Strategy for £100 billion of long-term spending to help tackle the climate crisis and invest in transport.

It was also confirmed Mr Sunak will change the Treasury's "green book", a set of rules to determine the value of Government schemes which is thought to favour London and the South East of England.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Sunak called for the same "collective endeavour" as defeating the virus for rebuilding the economy as the UK has the worst recession in 300 years.

He insisted that this same "spirit" would be needed when the health threat of Covid-19 is passed, and told the Scottish Conservative conference that "tough" sacrifices would be necessary for some time to come.

But he also stressed that in the midst of the global pandemic, the Scottish people should "know that they have the strength and security of the whole of the United Kingdom behind them".

Speaking at the online event, the Chancellor said: "The restrictions that we are facing, the sacrifices that we have had to make. They are tough now and they will remain tough for some time.

"But the threat of this pandemic will pass.

"And when it does we will then need to take that spirit of collective endeavour onto the task of rebuilding Scotland and the rest of our country together."

The Chancellor said the UK Government had given an additional £8.2 billion of funding to the Scottish Government "at this vital time", to help fund the response to Covid-19

"That is what pooling and sharing our resources across our four nations means.

"Controlling this virus and supporting those who have been affected by it is a collective endeavour, one that we all have a role in.

"The enduring principle that when we come together as one United Kingdom we can achieve far more than we do as four separate nations, is as relevant today, in the most difficult time in many of our lives, as it has ever been.

"If we come together then we can beat this virus."

Spending on lockdown measures is on track to exceed £200billion this year after the extension of furlough.